Synth pop and garlic mingle at Feast in the East 21
As the name implies, Feast In The East is a monthly event that brings together a mix of indie bands and pairs them with a full meal (or snack, depending on your appetite). Every month features new foods, bands, and curated installations. With that in mind, I entered the mixed-use office building that contains PolyHaus in Dundas and Carlaw warehouse land, and was greeted with the gusting scent of of herbs, garlic and spices.
As chef Dan Bedard (former production and flavour wizard at Greg's Ice Cream who is currently in culinary school) explained, he wanted to find a middle ground that would accomodate dietary restrictions, so a French-inspired vegan platter of vichyssoise (that's leek and potato soup to ceux qui ne parlent pas franÃ§ais), red bean dip, a family olive tapenade recipe, and a Moroccan carrot salad were on the menu.
The medley successfully highlighted a hearty range of striking colours, flavours and textures for a frosty winter night. A mix of 20-something OCAD girls and older, slightly nerdy audiophile dudes sat around under streamers made from cut-up flags (created by Adrian Dilena) eating off their plates, fetched from a soup kitchen-style window.
The sounds of the night were as varied and textured as the menu, but still within a consistent theme of lo-fi synth pop, enabled by a sound system made up of a garage sale's worth of '70s bass amp cabinets that wheezed under the pressure of modern electro outfits. Miss Elizabeth, a two-man, keyboard-based synth pop band (named after a celebrity WWF wrestling manager) squared off on stage facing each other like dueling battle ships while fans swayed to harmonizing church beats. One even sketched their performance on her pad.
Dap's Records Beta Frontiers, also a two man group, left the crowd awe-inspired and mouthing, "what the hell are they doing up there?" as they cranked out spectral synth loops and airy vocals off a laptop and Ableton, accompanied by their own live visual remixes. The dj/vj duo is rare in Toronto, but has been all the rage in Asia for a while now.
The main draw of the night for me was to check out Toronto/Berlin one man show Digits, aka Alt Altmann (formerly of The Ghost Is Dancing), who has been soaking up blog hype for his "Love Is Only Affection" music video shot by Toronto's waterfront (and strictly speaking, NSFW).
You wouldn't expect such a low, dusky force to emit from his mad scientist exterior. Lanky, and dressed in a classic '80s striped polo, wire-rimmed glasses and sporting a slightly asymmetrical bowl cut, he owned the stage like an ostracized math geek who's taken control of his high school prom. While Toronto may be losing Diamond Rings to LA, we (and Berlin) still have Digits. For now, at least.
Closing down the night were another soon-to-be-buzz band, Yacht Club, lead by Fucked Up's Ben Cook. A four-piece band bringing feel good sing-along anthems that might as well have been written in the '80s. Think Cyndi Lauper meets Genesis guitar licks and melodies.
Heavy on crowd interaction, Ben tossed glow stick bracelets into the crowd, borrowed fedoras, and plunged the mike deep into the mouth of a waiting sax for the song "His Eyes." No '80s band would be complete without at least one sax-based song. And I guess being so entrenched in the industry has given the band insight and certain liberties, as they currently have two singles out on two separate labels; "Flash" on Pretty Pretty Records, and "Tropicana" on Burger Records.
All the bands that played certainly have their own sort of hype going for them. It's great to see that this kind of community exists in Toronto, where dinner and a show take a completely different kind of meaning.
Photos by Kat Rizza